BOSTON – We have talked all the time about how the Celtics are a team whose strength lies in their collective talent and spirit, more so than any one individual player’s talent.
Because of that, they often leave themselves little room for error or poor play when it comes to beating some of the game’s elite teams.
- Highlights: Oklahoma City Thunder 117, Boston Celtics 112
- Thomas and Westbrook put on a scoring display in fourth quarter
- Celtics turn attention to Knicks after missed opportunity vs. Thunder
- Westbrook, Thunder pull away in second half to beat Celtics, 117-112
That was indeed the case on Friday night as the Oklahoma City Thunder got one clutch play after another from Russell Westbrook to snap Boston’s four-game winning streak by handing them a 117-112 loss.
Westbrook finished with a triple-double of 45 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
As much as Friday’s loss was about what Westbrook did down the stretch (he had 20 points in the fourth quarter), it also served as a reminder of how playing pretty good for most of the game isn’t good enough if you don’t take care of the little things that go into being a great team.
With Westbrook on the bench to start the fourth quarter, the Celtics were able to chip away at Oklahoma City’s lead and eventually had the ball with a chance to take the lead.
But Isaiah Thomas’ shot was off the mark.
Following a Thunder time-out with 9:01 to play, Kyle Singler was left wide open for a 3-pointer that he promptly nailed.
Allowing those kind of plays to happen were just as important a factor in the game’s outcome, as Westbrook’s prolific scoring.
"It's all the other things, like (Domantas) Sabonis' threes, all those other things we have to take away," said Boston's Avery Bradley. "We know Russ; he's going to play that way. He's going to take his shots. It's the other guys we need to contain and play better defense on."
The issue for the Celtics has nothing to do with effort and everything to do with execution.
"I thought we missed some rotations, certainly," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. "And I thought that we probably made some ... we erred in a few decisions on who to run at and who to leave. But for the most part I thought that our guys, I thought that our guys battled and were ready to battle. And again, I thought that they made a lot of great plays."
Compared to where they were at the start of the season when it comes to late-game execution, they are definitely better now.
But being pretty good as we saw on Friday, isn’t always good enough especially when you’re talking about a team that has a bona fide, undeniable superstar in Westbrook.
“Westbrook’s a tough matchup for everybody,” Stevens said. “But I thought we did a lot of good things. I thought they did more good things, and they won the game.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.
The triple-double machine was at it again on Friday night, lighting the Celtics up in every way imaginable. Westbrook, who came into the game averaging a triple-double this season, had 45 points (the most scored by any player against Boston this season) along with 11 rebounds and 11 assists. And of his 45 points, 20 came in the fourth quarter.
Other than Westbrook, you won’t find another player in the NBA who can score the ball in the fourth quarter the way Thomas has this season. He finished with 34 points and 10 assists for his third double-double this season, with 18 points coming in the fourth.
As pivotal as Westbrook’s play down the stretch was, the game wouldn’t have been that close if not for Sabonis having a big scoring night. He would finish with a career-high 20 points, 17 of which came in the first half.
Friday night was one of those games that Johnson has from time to time when the shots are seemingly flowing from all points on the floor. He would finish with 17 points for the Celtics on 6-for-10 shooting with six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
When Sabonis wasn’t stretching the Celtics out with his long-range shooting, Kanter was working over Boston around the rim. Kanter had 20 points off the bench to go with six rebounds (four offensive) and two assists.
This was one of Horford’s better games in terms of balancing his low-post scoring game with his ability to stretch the floor from beyond the 3-point line. He tallied 23 points which included a trio of 3-pointers to go with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
This was the roughest night Crowder has had this season for the Celtics. He scored a season-low three points while missing five of his six shots from the field. Most telling about his struggles was the fact that Boston was -11 when he was on the floor which was the worst plus/minus for any Celtic on Friday.